Contents

Starting My Journey Towards Financial Independence

Contents

In late 2020 I decided–for the first time in my life–to buy stocks. What kind of stocks? Biotech, more specifically BioNtech and Moderna, the companies who got the first and second emergency use authorization, respectively, for their Coronavirus vaccines in the US and Switzerland. My goal was clear: profit from the dramatically rising stock prices of these companies and sell once they would get approval, making me a nice profit along the way.

As I never had bought any stocks myself I started doing some research to find out where and how to buy them. I quickly discovered I could do so via my home bank UBS but the transaction fees just seemed too high. I ended up opening a Swissquote account (which I regret but that’s a topic for another post) and bought my first set of shares of Moderna at 95$/share (a bargain considering it went up to 160$/share in December 2020). Unfortunately I only bought shares for 500 CHF.

Anyway, I began to do more and more research on the stock market, investing and personal finance in general. Along the way I discovered two Swiss personal finance blogs: The Poor Swiss and Mustachian Post. That completely changed my perspective on money and investing. I read dozens of posts on these blogs over the span of a couple of days and I was hooked. Financial Independence, not having to work for money anymore, that sure felt like a goal worth pursuing. And so I decided to start my own FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) journey in December 2020 rather than to continue to try to make some quick money with (risky) stock trading.

Through the various blog posts I read I discovered lots of savings potential. I immediately felt the need to take action and so I did. Here’s a couple of changes I made prior to 2020 ending:

  • Cancel my UBS account and open a free bank account with neon instead, allowing me to leverage their Mastercard for (almost) fee-free purchases in foreign currencies (this is a big one for me as I frequently shop on amazon.de paying in Euros)
  • Open a broker account with Interactive Brokers to save Swiss stamp duty tax and the hefty transaction fees when buying foreign stocks on Swissquote (seriously >20$ for a NASDAQ trade, I know pay ~1$)
  • Sell all the (high fee) mutual fund investments my grandmother set up for me (thank you!) and invest them in low-cost Vanguard ETFs instead
  • Get myself a Swisscard Cashback credit card to earn up to 1% cashback per purchase (even 5% in the first three months!)
  • Create and stick to (at least so far) a budget on You Need A Budget
  • Deposit the maximum amount of 6826 CHF in my newly created 3rd pillar account on VIAC (this was my first 3rd pillar contribution since moving to Switzerland)
  • Calculate my net worth for the first time in my life (I was surprised to discover it was almost 88,000 CHF mostly thanks to my grandmothers’ investments and my employer’s generous 2nd pillar contributions)

Doing all these things felt great and my future self will surely thank me for taking these actions!

With these initial steps done I’m now fully committed to working towards financial independence. In order to keep myself motivated and accountable I decided to share my journey on this blog. I hope it will be useful not only for myself but also other Expats living in Switzerland. I knew even before immigrating to Switzerland that it’s an expensive country to live in. However, now I know that there’s lots of savings potential and given the high wages I do believe it’s a great place to work towards FIRE–especially if you plan to return to your (probably much more affordable) home country one day.

How about yourself? Did you start your FIRE journey already? I would love to know in the comments below.